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5024hr
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BERLIN: A German regulator on Tuesday slapped a three-month ban on Facebook collecting user data from WhatsApp accounts and referred the case to an EU watchdog, citing concerns about election integrity.

The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information sent the order to the social network, which owns the popular messaging service. Hamburg has jurisdiction because Facebook's German branch is based in the city. The tech giant informed WhatsApp users earlier this year that they had to consent to a new data-use policy to continue using the service. The German authority said in an emergency decision that the terms of that agreement were now null and void in Europe's top economy for three months.

It will hand the case over to the European Data Protection Board, an independent EU body that enforces rules throughout the 27-nation bloc. The head of the German regulator, Johannes Caspar, said past Facebook data protection breaches as well as Germany's general election in September showed the "dangers" of "mass building of user profiles" that could be exploited.

"This ruling is intended to protect the rights and freedoms of the many millions of user across Germany who give their permission to the new use and privacy policy," he said. "That includes not only the private sphere but also the possibility of using profiles to influence voter choices and manipulate democratic decisions."

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